FLOYD S. BLEDSOE, Plaintiff - Appellee,
JIM VANDERBILT, Defendant-Appellant, and JEFFERSON COUNTY, KANSAS; RANDY CARRENO; TROY FROST; ORIN TURNER; ROBERT POPPA; ROY DUNNAWAY; GEORGE JOHNSON; JIM WOODS; TERRY MORGAN; MICHAEL HAYES; JEFFREY HERRIG; UNKNOWN OFFICERS OF THE JEFFERSON COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT; UNKNOWN OFFICERS OF THE KANSAS BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION, Defendants.
from the United States District Court for the District of
Kansas (D.C. No. 2:16-CV-02296-DDC-GLR)
S. Linden (Kevin D. Case with him on the briefs), Case Linden
P.C., Kansas City, Missouri, for Defendant-Appellant.
Russell Ainsworth (Elizabeth Wang on the brief), Loevy &
Loevy, Boulder, Colorado, for Plaintiff-Appellee.
McHUGH, MURPHY, and CARSON, Circuit Judges.
CARSON, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
consider whether a prosecutor enjoys absolute immunity from
suit for fabricating evidence against an individual during
the preliminary investigation of a crime. Because Supreme
Court precedent dictates that he does not, Buckley v.
Fitzsimmons (Buckley I), 509 U.S. 259, 261, 272-76
(1993), we affirm the district court's order denying the
prosecutor absolute immunity.
circumstances that give rise to the case before us stem from
Plaintiff Floyd S. Bledsoe's allegedly wrongful
conviction for the 1999 rape and murder of fourteen-year-old
story starts on a Friday afternoon in early November after
C.A. arrived home from school. At the time, "home"
for C.A. meant the house belonging to Plaintiff, then
twenty-three years old, and his wife Heidi, who was
C.A.'s older sister. C.A. was staying with the couple and
their two young sons in an effort to improve her attendance
5:00 p.m., one of C.A.'s friends dropped by the house to
visit her. But although C.A.'s coat and book bag were
there, C.A. was not. After learning C.A. was gone, Plaintiff
and Heidi reported her disappearance to the Jefferson County,
Kansas Sheriff's Department. The couple then spent the
next forty-eight hours or so looking for the missing girl.
breakthrough came on Sunday evening when Tom Bledsoe,
Plaintiff's older brother, confessed that he had killed
somewhat of an outsider. Although older than Plaintiff, he
had been living with his and Plaintiff's parents, whose
residence was near Plaintiff and Heidi's house, at the
time of C.A.'s disappearance. He apparently had a limited
social life, had some unspecified intellectual limitations,
and was partially deaf. He also had engaged in some alarming
behavior in the past, including pursuing young girls. And
even though he was twenty-five years old at the time of the
events in question, Tom remained an active member and
participant in his church's Sunday School program for
enough, Tom first confessed that Sunday evening to his Sunday
School teacher. He left two messages on the teacher's
answering machine stating things like, "I know where
C.A. is," "I'm going to turn myself in to the
police," and "I will pay for the rest of my
life." He also called his parents, confessed to killing
C.A., and informed them he was going to turn himself into the
parents hired an attorney to represent him. The two met at
the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department that same
Sunday evening and described Tom's involvement in
C.A.'s disappearance and death to multiple police
officers. In short, the two men informed officers
that Tom had shot C.A. in the back of the head and buried her
in a trash dump on the property where Tom lived with his
the officers to C.A.'s body, which had been buried under
a large amount of dirt and plywood. C.A. had been shot once
in the back of the head and several times in the torso. The
coroner later found semen in her vagina but could not say
whether she had been forcibly raped. Near her body,
investigators found three bullet casings, a pornographic
video, and a t-shirt printed with the name of the church Tom
attended. Tom's attorney also surrendered a Jennings
nine-millimeter handgun-the professed murder weapon-to the
authorities. Authorities soon charged Tom with the
first-degree murder of C.A.
to Plaintiff's allegations, the tide changed rather
quickly. Within several days-and despite the mountain of
evidence against Tom and the pending charges against
him-authorities switched course and decided to pin C.A.'s
death on Plaintiff instead.
alleged scheme to frame Plaintiff for the crime fully ripened
at a meeting between various people who, for one reason or
another, had united against him. Although Plaintiff's
complaint does not state with certainty who attended this
meeting, the participants included Defendant Jim Vanderbilt,
the then-prosecutor of Jefferson County; Tom's attorney;
and other unknown and unspecified individuals. The
participants hatched the following plan: First, Tom would
recant his confession. Second, Tom would claim he had
encountered Plaintiff at a roadside intersection the day
after C.A.'s disappearance and that, during the
encounter, Plaintiff had spontaneously admitted to killing
the girl. Third and finally, Tom would maintain that
Plaintiff had bullied him into taking the fall for the crime
by threatening to expose that Tom had watched pornographic
videos, masturbated, and tried to have sexual intercourse
with a dog.
the schemers had coached Tom to go along with this fabricated
narrative, both Plaintiff and Tom took polygraph tests.
Plaintiff, as expected, disavowed any involvement with
C.A.'s disappearance or death. But Tom provided the false
recantation and implicated Plaintiff as the
after the polygraph examination ended, Tom tried to retract
his recantation and reaffirm to the schemers that he was the
one with blood on his hands. But the confederates convinced
him to stay the course. That same evening, Defendant
Vanderbilt released Tom from jail and dropped the ...